Thursday, 5 March 2015

The History of May 13th Student Movement Should not be Distorted

Arguments about “Did MCP exercise leadership 
in the May 13 student movement in Singapore?” 

The History of May 13th Student Movement 
Should not be Distorted

•  Picture above shows the event in commemoration of the 60th Anniversary (1954-2014) of the May 13 incident in Singapore held at Qian Xi Restaurant Singapore (Paya Lebar). Around 800 representatives from democratic political parties and organisations as well as democrats from Singapore and Malaysia attended the event. Lim Hock Koon, who led Chinese middle school students to petition the Governor seeking exemption for military conscription back in those years and a couple of special guests had delivered important speeches during the luncheon. The book Youth On Trial specially published for this anniversary was also launched on the spot. Two scholars and a Nanyang University alumni had published corresponding commentaries before and after the event respectively.

•  Picture below shows the courageous struggle of the Chinese middle school students where they suffered brutal suppression by the police of the British colonial government when they petitioned the British Governor in Singapore for exemption from national service. They have marked a glorious chapter in the history of Malaya’s (including Singapore) student and mass movements.

【Sahabat Rakyat Editor’s Note】 An argument about “Did Communist Party of Malaya (MCP) exercise leadership in the May 13 student movement in Singapore?” broke out in the 60th anniversary commemoration of the “May 13 student movement in Singapore” this year. This controversy started off recent years when there exist different views on some major historical events and some important figures among those who involved in Singapore student movements in 1950-60s and some social movement activists. The disagreements have become more concretised and more apparent when two scholars published their articles and corresponding individuals made some remarks before and after the 60th anniversary commemoration of the “May 13 student movement in Singapore”. This has drawn the attention of those who had actively participated in the anti-colonial struggle and those who are now actively involved in the democratic movement.

Referring to a few articles that have been released and the mouth-spread news, most of the participants in this argument see May 13 as an incident isolated from other related incidents solely based on the situation they understand or materials that they have, and from their own position and perspective. With these, they then drew their own conclusion, some said that “it was (May 13 incident) related to MCP”, some said no; some said “it was led by MCP”, some said no. However, most of those involved in this debate lacked convincing facts or documents to support their argumentations and assertions. This is certainly closely related to the single-line connection approach of MCP’s underground organisation in the past, and the Lee Kuan Yew ruling clique’s imperious approach of monopolising and not revealing some important confidential documents.

The May 13, 1954 incident was obviously a collective action of Singapore Chinese middle school students petitioning the Governor of the British colonial government to seek exemption from military conscription, which signified the revolt against the National Service Ordinance. The collective action of defending their own rights desperately was rather spontaneous which could hardly be instigated by MCP or anyone. However, it is an undeniable fact that the promulgation of the National Service Ordinance by the British colonial government on 17 Mar 1954, forcing all young men between the ages of 18 and 20 to join the military service was to counter-balance the anti-British armed struggle launched by MCP in Peninsular Malaya. Therefore, today, 60 years after the incident, if someone still insists that the May 13 student movement is irrelevant to MCP, he/she is either ignorant or muddled; otherwise he/she should have his/her own agenda.

The May 13, 1954 incident is not merely an isolated collective action, it is in fact organised, goaled and properly led which had then formed the May 13 student movement. One after another struggle of the Chinese middle school students petitioning to seek exemption from conscription had raised the awareness and promoted the solidarity of the Chinese middle school students, and led to the formation of the “Singapore Chinese Middle School Students’ Union”, creating an effective force in wiping out the enemy. This effective force on one hand joined effort with the school directors, teachers and parents to strive for a peaceful and liberal learning environment and the existence and development of Chinese education (including Nan Yang University), and on the other hand joined effort with other forces such as peasant and worker’s movement, women’s movement, cultural movement etc. to struggle hard for the independence of Malaya (including Singapore), to get free from the British colonial rule.

It is an indisputable historical fact that the anti-colonisation struggle of the people of Malaya (including Singapore) since Second World War till 1960s could not be separated from the participation or leadership of MCP and its underground organisation. This is also the reason why the British colonial rule and the ruling clique of Malaya and Singapore inheriting the British rule have been treating MCP as their main enemy that needs to be wiped out. Although the armed struggle in Peninsular Malaya and the constitutional struggle in Singapore led by MCP had both failed ultimately, it is flying in the face of the historical fact when the existence and the role of MCP and its underground organisations were intentionally or unintentionally eliminated when discussing about the anti-colonial movement as well as independence and nation-building issues today.

It is worth mentioning that, Phoon Yuen Ming, a young scholar who is keen in the research of MCP’s history has released a rather specific article, entitled “From ‘was it MCP’ to ‘was there MCP leadership’: Crisis in leftists’ explication”, the article has the following assertion:

“But by drawing the line just shows the official’s logic that ‘MCP is illegal’. May 13 is the start of Singapore student movement and even the rise of the leftist forces in 1950s, its status in the history of anti-colonisation and the founding of the nation cannot be obliterated. May 13 was also the last spiritual bastion of the Chinese school students, therefore it must be ‘fully preserved’ to avoid contamination by MCP. Only by denying the existence and the role of MCP, May 13 will have the chance to be included in the ‘legal’ nation building history. However, when the large leftist camp drew the line with MCP in order to assert its legitimacy, it also means that they accepted the official thinking and explication.” (Editor’s Note: This article was released in Chinese, and the title and this sentence were translated to English by Sahabat Rakyat).

The above-mentioned assertion of the scholar might cause repercussions from some former MCP members or former leftists. 

We hope that publication of the English rendition of the following articles provided by the authors could allow the non-Chinese-educated readers to understand the contents about the arguments and the authors' perspectives on this topic, so that the impact of the arguments can be disseminated more widely.

The following are the contents of the articles on “Arguments about ‘Did MCP exercise leadership in the May 13 student movement in Singapore?’” Please click on the title of article 1 to 5 to view the respective contents. The English rendition of article 4 was received on 23 Feb 2015 and of article 5 is not yet available. We are much obliged if the respective author could send us the English rendition of the article as well so that our aspiration to provide the non-Chinese-educated readers with the complete English rendition of these arguments could be materialised. Sahabat Rakyat has temporarily translated the title into English. We will update them upon receiving the English rendition from the author.

Table of Contents
1. Chen Jian (C.C. Chin): The Significance of May 13th Student Movement
2. Hong Lysa: Sixty Years on... Commemorating the May 13 1954 Student Movement
3. Yip Tat Mun (叶德民): Commemorating the 60th Anniversary of 5.13 Student Movement
4. Chen Jian (C.C. Chin): The History of May 13th Student Movement should not be distorted.
5. Phoon Yuen Ming (潘婉明): From ‘was it MCP’ to ‘was there MCP leadership’: Crisis in leftists’ explication (从“是不是马共”到“有没有马共”——左派论述的危机)

The History of May 13th Student Movement 
Should not be Distorted

Author : Chen Jian

Ever since the “Historical Significance of the May 13th Student Movement” was published, there have been the denunciations by the self-proclaimed leftist academic spokesman Lysa Hong and my Nanyang University contemporary Ye De Min (叶德民). Certainly, it is not surprising that my article attracted all sorts of comment. This is mainly due to the fact that these so-called leftists have long been trying to separate themselves from the MCP and white-wash their relationship with the MCP through whatever means, so to declare that they were “all very innocent”.

Their logic is simple:

1. They believe that I am trying to whitewash the MCP and hold that whatever was contributed by the left, was actually a contribution by the MCP. There has been some who claim that the MCP is trying to snatch the credit.

This resulted from the recent efforts by some comrades to try to provide a proper historical record for the former second in command of the MCP underground in Singapore. A biography of Zhan Zhong Qian (詹忠谦 @ Gao Lao Lin (高佬林Tall fellow Lim) was published recently. It noted that he had been treated unjustly internally during his exile in Indonesia and the biography was trying to rehabilitate him. Some then interpreted this restoration of his true image as an effort to snatch the credit of the contribution by the left to the anti-colonial struggle.

2. They consider my interpretations as being merely “hearsay” and not to be trusted. According to Ye De Min’s conjecture, I simply based my history upon an oral account by our fellow student Xie (谢), the Head of the Action Committee during the Campaign, and thus jumped to the conclusion that the May 13th Movement was led by the MCP.

The Severance Group casts aside the relationship with the MCP

Over recent years, there have been quite some leftists who have denied MCP leadership over various anti-colonial activities after the Emergency was declared in Singapore. I call them the “Severance Group” and I would like to give a brief description of their personalities and analyze their attempts and motives for the denial.

1. Quite clearly, some  of those persons who deny any relationship with the MCP, and  those who wish to disassociate themselves from or sever their activities from those of the MCP,  were enthusiasts who took an active role in the anti-colonial struggle in the early days, and later on were  leftists who joined the political parties involved in constitutional struggle. Some of these persons had direct connections with the MCP, and in fact, were MCP members; some belonged to the Anti-British League, a peripheral organization of the MCP; while some were just sympathizers or supporters, or simply those who were being fostered and developed.

2. Outrageously, these people now openly deny their relationship with the MCP.  While their reasons and motives for this are varied, below I will outline the major aspect:

A. Today the MCP has ceased to exist except in name, and its leaders, including Chin Peng himself, are either old or deceased. But, their place in history and their contributions had never been recognized and were never part of the mainstream historical narrative. Some people have viewed the relationship with the MCP as a negative asset, and considered it to be harmful and something to be discarded. This is because, from the official historical narrative, the MCP was considered the trouble makers and the destructive force of social order, and should they identify themselves with the MCP, they would find themselves in a disadvantageous position.

B. In the mainstream narratives, there were numerous political struggles involving the MCP, during which the MCP was declared an illegal organization. Thus anyone connected to its activities would be prosecuted. Due to the need for constitutional struggle, it was thus necessary to deny being associated with the MCP so to avoid any legal prosecution. The denial today is simply the upholding of the previous repudiation. In their belief, such a denial would establish that the authorities’ accusations against the leftists were wrong.

C. The denial of the MCP’s leadership and its effects would thus signify that the contributions to the anti-colonial movement and nation building was the efforts of the left and thus they would be dignified as national heroes. However, after Singapore was established as a nation, these national heroes were not recognized as such. That then is the deficiency of the current nation’s policy. It is not fair or just, and therefore the members of the severance group feel that they must fight for justice and recognition.

D. Circumstances change with the passage of time, some “proletarian warriors” (in fact they were mostly petty bourgeoisie) have strived successfully or simply develop their family heritage well and become rich and wealthy. Their identities have changed and they are now the beneficiaries of the systems, and in fact the benefactors of the current political systems, with the personality change, it is certainly a need of rectification of name.

This is in fact a historical tragedy. Knowing that there are difficulties in severing the connections, yet still continuing to upholding the denial is in fact more harmful than beneficial. Only the genuine leftists will uphold their principles and condemn these severing their connections. However, these condemnations do no harm at all to the severance group. They feel that, in circumstances where evidence and archival materials are lacking, as well as there being few people who know the details of the historical facts, there remains ample room for denial.

The Reasons for Severing Links with the MCP

I think that basically there are two factors why the so-called Leftists decided to sever their relationship with the MCP:

1. Whether it was in pursuit of the anti-colonial struggle during the colonial period, or later when fighting the power with the PAP, they were always open and legal in their constitutional struggle. The legislative system and laws however were the creations of the colonial government, and under these the MCP was declared to be an illegal party to be eradicated. The colonial rulers and later the PAP Government had consistently branded the left-wing organizations and the leftists as being MCP related or peripheral organizations and the leftists as MCP agents whether or not they had any connection with the party. The MCP was used as the most useful pretext and accusation against any opposition member, all of whom were then conveniently arrested or detained under the Internal Security Act or at earlier stage, the Emergency Regulations. There did not need to be any trial or investigations, and once arrested, persons would be subject to detention for two years or longer. Therefore at the time, it was absolutely necessary for the left to deny any relationship with the MCP and to draw a clear line of demarcation between themselves and the MCP, thus allowing them to rebut any of the accusations of the authorities.

However, time has passed and circumstances have changed, but some of the left still live in the past and persist with their ideas and actions considering that their continuing the denials will provide them with legitimacy.  This behaviour is rather “cute”. Today, ideology is no longer a factor in a life-or-death struggle.  In fact, it is really time to restore history to its correct perspective.  However, the so-called leftists are still in agreement with the authority’s political logic in claiming that “the MCP is illegal”. Is this not somewhat ridiculous! Furthermore, it falls within the same childish rubric as that lined during the Cultural Revolution in China, whereby “We should support whatever the enemy opposes and oppose whatever the enemy supports”!  ”
2. As mentioned earlier, there has long been a claim that the MCP is now going all out to claim credit for the anti-colonial movement. What credit are we talking about? What was referred to were credit for organizing, motivating, launching and pushing forward the anti-colonial activities (as well, of course, as the harm, damages and sacrifices). To say that all activities and movement were initiated, organized and activated just by the left would secure all credit and the left would be deserving of all glory.

This in fact, it is an excellent way“kill two birds with one stone”. However, can this actually be achieved by severing or denying the left’s links with the MCP? Is there any significance in such acts? Would people, including those many sober-minded leftists and party members of the MCP agree on this?
The MCP’s Strategy and Operation in Singapore before and after the Emergency

What were the real facts? Let’s clarify them.

1. Whether it was during the anti-colonial stage, or during the period of struggle for power with the PAP, the MCP was always an organization which, through its underground organizations, open front bodies and individual party members, guided leftist activities. During the early period of peace period, the MCP was the only political party (only later were the MDU and other parties established). Within the constitutional framework, there was established a number of open organizations for workers, farmers, students, women, young people and cultural groups (such as educational bodies, old school associations, musical and dance troupes, and literary and arts organizations). The purpose of these groups was to organize and educate the masses, so as to train a large number of party and league members, political cadres, and leftwing elements and supporters. These persons became the activists for the MCP’s mass activities and campaigns.

When the Emergency was declared on 20th June 1948, the MCP was branded as an illegal organization. Almost immediately, they formed the Singapore People’s Anti-British League (SPABL) in order to organize the party members, cadres, leftists and supporters into operatives for the SPABL. As before, they carried out both legal and illegal activities of struggle among utilizing the workers, farmers, student, women and cultural bodies. Together with the banning of the MCP, many of their open front organizations were banned too. As such, many of the activists went underground. After 1952, the colonial government relaxed its prohibitions, and quite a number of the workers and farmers’ organizations were registered, and operated as legal entities. Being the front organizations of the clandestine MCP, quite a number of the SPABL members and many cadres of the left emerged and became the backbone of these organizations.            

They followed the guidelines of the MCP political programs and under the leadership of the MCP underground units, obeyed the directives and operated in accordance with the discipline of the MCP. They followed the principles and policies which they did during the open legal period, operated and pursued activities through the mode of constitutional struggle, and carried out legal struggle in a beneficial, logical and ordered way. The student movement was always the outstanding segment of the SPABL operations, and thus produced numerous cadres who later became the core operators in the battle line constituted by the worker, farmer, student, women and literary movements. While many of the activists may not have been MCP members, they no doubt were ABL members. Those non-party members were referred to as supporters or activists of the left, and they respected the organizational guidelines of the ABL or the MCP and obeyed the “Secret Operational Discipline” regulations in their organizational activities.  Non-party members may have been more relaxed in terms of disciplinary control, as they were not as stringently supervised by the party or the league. However, they were instructed to conduct study sessions and perform criticism and self criticism at regular interval, so to elevate their ability, self-cultivation (mainly in terms of political and cultural accomplishments) and self discipline, and to strengthen struggle and revolutionary will. If one didn’t go through such training at the time, they were not considered to be leftist.
It was quite strict on the organizational level, but there was a need for collective coordination to unite, educate and activate the masses for any struggle.  Therefore, not every party or league member would follow strictly the one to one operative method as instructed by the “Secret Operational Discipline” regulations (严密细则). Especially at the level of student operations, quite often there were lateral relations or horizontal contacts which also occurred in the workers or farmers work operations. However, in general, the level-by-level hierarchical organizational structure was still very strict and clearly defined. In terms of student operational structure, from the student working committee (second level of the party structure) downward, leading elements were appointed in the middle and higher classes of schools. They constituted the central command and they were followed in lower units by leaders at grade and class levels. These leaders were carefully selected by the upper grade recommendation and, following approval, were further cultivated and trained. The chain of command was implemented down to the nomination and appointment of class prefects and other class unit members for every class.

Such an organizational structure confirmed the origins of the leftists and it also explains that the leftists did not simply emerge by themselves. Rather, they were all cultivated and developed by a strict clandestine organization. Only such an organization would be able to guarantee that every command and operation would be carried out efficiently and successfully.

The leading unit would issue general orders, and provide overall guidelines and policies, while lower levels or rank would follow the directives to carry out the established plan and its method for implementation. The commanders at each level could issue specific orders for action in accordance with the specific local situations. These were the general principles of action in handling matters. However, the on-the-spot situations and battlefront conditions were always subject to change and it was thus necessary for front commanders to take decisions and to react decisively. In the case of the May 13th movement, the decision and directive issued by the leading Student Working Committee (学生工作委员会) was to be carried out by the “Seven-Member Operation Committee” (七人行动委员会) which made its own specific operational plans.  This was because the commanding members of the Student Working committee were not able to be at the frontline of the May 13th operation, and therefore, the Seven-Member Operation Committee had to take its own decisions and act in accordance with the situation. As such, the ability of the Seven-Member Committee, and especially of the person surnamed Xie (谢) who was in command, to make swift on–the-spot decisions was indispensable.

The MCP Organization in the Student Movement

From above description of the organizational structure, one can clearly understand how the May 13th movement was organized and how it operated in a beneficial, rational and ordered way. Those so-called academics who do not do deep research and do not understand the MCP’s organizational structure and its methods of operation, and particularly do not understand organizational life within the MCP and the Anti-British League, certainly will not be able to comprehend or understand the ins and outs of the movement, or the sequences and the process of the movement. As such, through hearsay and extrapolations, they will arrive at baseless conclusions and conjectures.
Let us closely examine the actual MCP organization in the Chinese High School (华侨中学) and discuss its relationship to the activities of the May 13th Student Movement.

Much earlier than the declaration of the Emergency on June 20th 1948, an MCP group was already in existence in the Chinese High School. The early MCP group members included Liang Gen Cheng (梁根成), Lu Jian Wen (卢坚文), Wang Qi Nan (王琪南) and others. They were all successively arrested and deported to China. Liang was later to become a professor in the Beijing University, Lu changed his name to Lu Ting (卢汀), and became a member of the Tianjin People’s Political Consultative Conference, and Wang became  the Chairman of the Changsha Overseas Chinese Federation. They formed an MCP Branch in Chinese High right after June 20th 1948, and also organized the Student Anti-British League simultaneously. They cultivated and recruited Huang Mao Zhong (黄茂忠), Huang Ming Qiang (黄明强), Zhan Zhong Qian (詹忠谦) and other activists, and they were installed as the core members of the Student Working Committee and were responsible for student organizational tasks. At the time, there were other MCP or ABL members such as Zeng Fu Hua (曾福华), Zhang Tai Quan (张泰泉), Wu Tian Fu (吴田夫), Chen Zhi Bin (陈质彬), Zhang Yun Fu (张允茯), Xie Yan Hui (谢炎辉) and others.              

The first Student ABL group was established in early 1949 in the class of Huang Ming Qiang and Zhan Zhong Qian. The members included Lu Jian Wen, Huang Mao Zhong, Huang Ming Qiang, Zhan Zhong Qian, Lin Shi Bin (林使宾), Zeng Ai Mei (曾爱美) (Zeng later left for China due to a dispute over MCP strategy and tactic in terms of whether it was necessary to pursue an armed struggle or a constitutional struggle) and others. Just before June 20th, for the purposes of propaganda and further recruitment, they distributed “Voice of the People” (民声报), the organ of the MCP, and other progressive newspapers, books and magazines in the school. After June 20th, the circumstances changed, and “Voice of the People” was subsequently banned. They then distributed the secretly-published “Freedom News” (自由报). At the same time, while widely undertaking propaganda activities among League and party members, they engaged in education and solidarity activities, so as to carefully broaden their recruitment campaign.      

The ABL in Chinese High was led by and reported directly to the Student Working Committee of the Singapore Town Committee (星洲市委). Student ABL groups had also been set up in other high schools such as Nanyang Girls High School (南洋女中), Chung Cheng High School (中正中学), Nan Qiao Girls High School (南桥女中) and others. The Student Working Committee liaised with the individual school ABL groups in a one-to-one straight line method strictly following the “Secret Operation Directive” regulations. Among the active school girl activists were Lin Rui Er (林瑞娥)、Zheng Min Na (郑敏娜) 、Cai Shi Jun (蔡石君) and others. Student ABL activities also in fact extended over the causeway to the Foon Yew High School (宽柔中学) in Johor Bahru.  

In 1950, Huang Ming Qiang and Zhan Zhong Qian had been promoted to the rank of Committee member of the Student Working Committee. After Huang Mao Zhong was arrested and deported to China, Huang Ming Qiang was appointed as the central commander in place of Huang Mao Zhong. In the same year, through the ABL units in the schools, Huang Ming Qiang called for a joint meeting of delegates from all Chinese high schools in Singapore, and a statement entitled ‘Manifesto for the Students of All High Schools in Singapore’ was issued after the meeting.  

In 1954, when the Colonial Government passed the National Service Ordinance, the Student Working Committee immediately organized an anti-enlistment struggle campaign. It was led by the central commander Huang Ming Qiang, and Zhan Zhong Qian was responsible for carrying out the actual operation. Members elected by the ABL units in each school, formed the ‘Seven-Member Action Committee’ for organising and mobilizing the students to participate in all activities against the British National Service Ordinance. Down the line from the Student Working Committee was a student named Xie Yan Hui, who was the central figure of the ‘Seven-Member Action Committee’, who was responsible for the tasks of directing the entire operation in situ. During and after the May 13th movement, some ABL members such as Lin Rui Er (林瑞娥), Chen Meng He (陈蒙鹤), Lin Fu Kun (林福坤), Lin Jin Quan (林金泉@He Jin 贺巾), Zheng Min Na (郑敏娜), Fang Xiao Lang (方小浪), David Lin You Gu (林有固@林大为) and others were promoted to the rank of party member.  

The explanation above is meant to clarify the facts to counter the various forms of hearsay and erroneous stories which have been widely spread. It is time to let the truth be known so as to counter any deliberate efforts to mislead or confuse the public. The elaboration below is intended as a point-by-point reply to Lysa Hong and Ye De Min’s accusations.

Assumption that the MCP was the Backstage Manipulator

The description above has provided a clear picture of how the MCP led the student movement. The efforts by the left to cut themselves off from or deny connections with the MCP is simply naïve wishful thinking. Lysa Hong is supposed to be a sharp-minded academic, but has unbelievably been taken in by this ridiculous logic. “The Mighty Wave”, the novel by He Jin has quite clearly written of this and Lysa Hong has also noted it is widely known that that the student movements in the 1950s were heavily influenced by the underground organizations. Given that this is a fact widely known, how is it that Lysa Hong still makes such a mistake? Why must she deny that the May 13th movement was led by the MCP Student Working Committee? To satisfy the desires of the severance group, Lysa Hong, being their academic spokesman, has gone so far as to dishonour academic principles.

The Evidence in the British Archives

Lysa Hong questions the proof of my argument, and declares that even the British had noted that the MCP had nothing to do with the May 13th movement. However, she did not list the British archival materials to support her claim, and as such, leaves people in doubt as to whether she actually has any evidence to support her claim. Even if there are such materials in the archives, could we consider these materials to be 100% accurate? Can we assume that the British Special Branch officers possessed extraordinary magical power? If that was so, they would not have needed to spend several decades’ effort and time, and put in so much manpower, material supports and endless finance in an attempt to contain the MCP, an effort that was eventually unsuccessful. Let us examine the contents of these archival materials. In fact, they were the reports by the Special Branch officers. In my view, they were simply second-hand materials, some of which may be of reference value. However how precise or accurate were these materials? For any academic research, one must seriously and meticulously verify the origin of materials, carry out necessary comparison, verify and especially authenticate the materials with those who were involved in the events and compare the materials with existing oral history records. This is the cautious manner that an academic should pursue, rather than basing their conclusions on any personal reasons or jumping to conclusions.  

The Absurdity of Using a Fictitious Story line as Historical Evidence

“Mighty Wave” is a novel written by He Jin, a writer turned guerilla fighter who was also involved in the May 13th Movement. For any novel or fiction, it is normal to fabricate fictitious story lines, commonly known as a plot. Though these may be based upon true historical facts, in depicting a scene or portraying a character, the writer will deviate from the actual facts, and therefore it is not possible to describe the descriptions in novels as historical facts. For any serious academic study, it is absurd to use a fictional episode as historical narration. Lysa Hong has been a historian working within a strict system, and should know well that this is basic principle and fundamental requirement. Though she has left the system, the academic principle should still be closely observed and applied. Therefore, she should not be simply bluffing around. Furthermore, in an earlier statement, she denied that the May 13th Movement was connected with the MCP, but then the two key characters in “Mighty Wave” were MCP members participating in the May 13th movement. In this so-called academic study, earlier claims are contradicted by later paragraphs.

In order to satisfy certain people’s wish, Lysa Hong simply uses an episode in a novel as historical fact for her historical narrative, and thereby has in fact, violated a basic principle of academic research. Let also quote Joseph R. Kipling’s poem which said: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten”. I would like to alter a bit of the poem which will then vividly distinguish between history and a story: “if the history were taught in the form of stories, one would never get to the truth”.

I would like to take this opportunity to state that Lysa Hong has distorted some of the historical facts. Firstly, recently there were some MCP comrades who wanted to rehabilitate the reputation of Zhan Zhong Qian, the second in command in the Singapore underground operation. This however, had nothing to do with the publishing of the “Mighty Wave” and it was merely a coincidence that it happened at the same time. Secondly, the so-called  MCP “internal struggle that eventually saw Zhan Zhong Qian driven out of the leadership (of the underground) ”, had no relationship at all with the May 13th Movement. What actually occurred was that after the February 2nd 1963 “Operation Coldstore”, among those MCP cadres who moved to Indonesia there were some disputes and a shift of power among the leadership.  To be more precise, someone took advantage of cultural revolutionary methods to seize power. The purpose of dragging these unrelated incidents into the narration, and using the “Mighty Wave” plots for the explanation were to confuse the issue. Furthermore, tying together the bad character in the novel with Zhan Zhong Qian, was an evil motive intended to distort the character of Zhan Zhong Qian. This style of unreliable “academic study” not only misleads the readers but is most unjust to Zhan Zhong Qian.      

Confusing the Role of an Opponent and an Antagonist?

Lysa Hong racks her brains to quote the Nobel Laureate Poet Joseph Rudyard Kipling, try to prove that I have confused an opponent and an antagonist in the history. What she meant was that I have confused a left and a MCP member. In actual fact, the Left was a person cultivated and developed by the MCP, he was either had already been a member of the MCP or a member of the peripheral organization, the Anti-British League, but in the open constitutional struggle, they would only surfaced as a leftist for the open struggle. Some of them in fact had dual-personality, most of those involved would know the real situation. The question is, were the left emerged out of nowhere? To identify whether they were opponent or antagonist, first we must have a clear mind to find out what role were they performed at different period of time. To me, they were not “east not east, west not west”, but were “sometime east, sometime west”, or they “were east and were west”. They were also not because of “different principle and therefore lack of common ground”, they were in fact “worked together due to same principle”. The left and the MCP were imbued with the same spirit, master discipline tutorship in same ideology, they all believed the scientific socialism, the final aim was to create a socialist republic, and not democratic socialist country. On the strategy and tactics, the Left would pursue constitutional election system and through parliamentary democratic non-violent struggle in achieving its goal. The MCP was forced to pursue armed struggle in achieving the power as it was banned and prohibited for constitutional struggle. It was altogether on different battle line so applying different strategy and tactics. In another words, the Left in effect was legally competing with People’s Action Party by means of constitutional method and through parliamentary election system, it was absolutely logical and reasonable. The MCP realised that in the urban environment, there was no condition to allow armed struggle, it had deeply convinced that only by way of constitutional struggle would be the only way to survive. Though for quite q period of time, there existed a small pocket of armed unit, however, it was small in number and purely for the sick of punishing the running dogs and to terminate the enemy’s agent or traitors. It was not meant to exist as urban guerrilla unit. In Singapore, whether it was the MCP underground or the open Left, were all the opponents of constitutional struggle and not the armed antagonists. We shall absolutely not to confuse the issue.                            

The May 13th Movement had cultivated quite some important cadres, they became the leaders of political campaigns, the key elements of the workers, farmers, student and women’s organizations. Some had even appointed as minister. If Lysa Hong did not do her home work, she then is simply for argument sick, deny to the end without substance. Whether they turned renegade  either before or after the split of the united front in 1961, they were all the members of Anti-British League or the MCP proper. The first Minister of Culture Jek Yeun Thong (易润堂); the one eventually appointed as President, Devan Nair (蒂凡那); and many of those early PAP backbones and most important cadres such as Chan Chiaw Thor (曾超卓), Chok Kor Thong (卓可党), Tan Chong Kin (陈从今), Chen Say Jame (陈世鉴) and many others. One of whom needed special mentioned was Chan Sun Wing (陈新嵘) who stood firm on party principle and went underground, he was once the right-hand man of Lee Kuan Yew, the political secretary to Lee as well as the Parliamentary Secretary of PAP Government. Escape together was Wong Soon Fong (黄信芳), the Member of Parliament of Toa Payoh, the Head of National Building Brigade (建国队) and others. From the historical point of view, they were all the elites emerged and cultivated by the student movement. If you think they had betrayed their belief and therefore must be deleted from the list。That is not history.        

The Fear Being Associated with the MCP

Lysa Hong mentioned: ”Quite worried that whether this sort of anniversary gathering would become the excuse so to condemn it was related to the MCP”, and she further elaborated that “It indicates that those who worried would have such thinking had their ground”. It is really a phobia uncalled for.Just like the Chinese proverb said: “the man of State Qi worried that the sky might fall on him”. If today there do not have relatively a more open and democratic atmosphere, do you dare to openly called for such gathering of resentment? If today, the MCP is still has its great influence, would you still be denying their role in organizing and leading the movement? If those so-called left still embrace such mentality of severance and still suffer from such phobia, it only indicated that they are too scared, naive and cowardice.   

Slandering and Distortion forfeit the Principle of an Academic

It seemed rather coincided that Lysa Hong and Ye De Min both apply the tactic in distorting my presentation by mean of making personal attack and defamation. That is certainly not academic debate, it simply an action of irresponsible linguistic hegemony. Ye in his article paragraph five mentioned: “don’t know whether it was coincident or simply co-operate”, and Lysa Hong went so far to say that my article was written at the will of the authority as Zaobao specifically published the article on the particular day. She elaborated further that “if you think the author does not comprehend Zaobao’s motive in publishing the article, we are actually over underestimated him”. All but was aimed to smear me as the spokesman of the authority. Their intention is rather evil, as this has by far violated the norm of academic debate and obviously is an evil personal attack, it is an ill-minded, base and brazen behaviour aimed to frame me in injustice and character defamation. I hope they could produce solid evidence to back up their “deliberated and evil assumption”! If otherwise, their motive is deliberated planned and fabricated to denounce me. This is in fact similar to what had been the persistent practice of the Left for habitual smearing against any opposition or those carry different opinion or idea. It seemed that, both of them have insufficient training in historical research or simply due to too close a relationship with the so-called leftists and was badly influenced and have had thought the essence in smearing.          

From Lysa Hong and Ye De Min’s muddling description view points, I really at doubt that they have sufficient knowledge of the MCP history or they didn’t do their home work properly. Without serious research and scrutinizing study, one merely has the right to speak. Simply based on hearsays to condemn others is unprofessional, rude and perfunctory indeed. I sincerely hope that Lysa and Ye De Min would spend more time seriously perform the basis academic research work so not to embarrass themselves again.      


There is a saying that: “the history is like a piece of canvas, forever being painted again and again”. Also other mentioned: “all history is contemporary history”. It is absolutely clear that the history has its value of reality. The purpose of the history narrative works for the interest of contemporary politics. That is exactly why the history were being distorted and altered frequently. However, such history is not the real history, there will always be the brave one dare to face the danger, to unveil and expose the true facts of the history.

The severance group’s intention is really not difficult to understand. First of all, they had stupidly agreed to the logic of the authority as what is legal and what is not, and then follow exactly the so-called legal norm to interpret own past conducts. It is rather odd and irony for doing so. On one side, criticise other had distorted the history, on the other side, one tried so hard to dishonour own history, was that not an act of distortion the history? History should not be distorted, the two-camps ideological struggle is now a thing of the past, this is really the time to put the history in its right perspective and be truthful to the facts of historical process. Regardless your personality, whether there are contemporary entanglement, one must unperturbed and be frank and sincere to face the history. For the anti-colonial movement or later the constitutional struggle, whether or not there were implications, they were all acts of just and glory. Any severance and denial are simply an act of foolishness and dwarfing oneself, it is definitely an intolerable act of stupidity.      

Note:For names in English translation that are not available in its origin, are translated as per Hanyu Pinyin.


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